It’s easy to forget something from January when you’re looking back in December. But for me, one of the year’s early surprise hits is hard to forget.
At the end of January, publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment released Dying Light for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and the critics were quick to point out that it felt a lot like an Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry. And that is true. Dying Light is an open-world action game with a world map that fills up with markers you need to explore. But I felt at the time, and my opinion on this has only solidified since, that most people were missing something deeper and more rewarding.
Dying Light is a zombie survival game where you play in first person and can do some awesome parkour stuff. The movement is excellent. That’s important because the world is huge and brimming with violent flesh-eating humans. But it’s also important because it makes every tiny moment of gameplay fun. It’s weird that all these years after Super Mario 64 figures out 3D movement we’re still getting games that are learning to put interesting twists on that basic outline.
And enjoying the moment-to-moment gameplay of Dying Light’s gameplay is important because it means you will probably get better at it. And that’ll make you ready to go out at night.
Venturing into the darkness is optional in Dying Light, and that was fine with me because the inky blackness made me feel alone and frightened. But I did eventually attempt to run a night mission after finding out it would give me bonus experience points.
That did not go well.
After leaving the safety of one of my bases, my radar immediately filled up giant cones representing the vision of the more powerful zombies. I made it about 10 seconds before running right into one, which flexed its awful, exposed muscles and made bodily waste leave my privates involuntarily.
I flashed the monster with my UV flashlight to stun it, and then turned to book in through the game’s favela-like city. A quick wall jump and parkour maneuvers did not improve my situation. Instead, I quickly picked up two more high-powered enemies on my tale. But despite the darkness, I began to recognize where I was and remembered that I was near a UV trap. After taking a major blow and losing most of my life, I limped around a car, jumped over a standard zombie (exploding his head with my boot in the process), and was able to get on a roof with enough speed to avoid the monsters on my tail.
I made a leap for the intersection where I remembered the trap. I got the prompt to activate it, and I didn’t look back to see what happened to the monsters. This gave me enough of a break to make it back to another one of my bases.
It is one of the scariest and most exhilarating things I did in games this year.